28 - Landdrost and mayor, public body and democracy: from authority to participation

As the reclamation of the Noordoostpolder progressed, the new soils not only had to be dewatered, cultivated, exploited and colonised, but the newly claimed land also had to be governed. Civil registry, public order, education, fire brigade and healthcare, just a few of the aspects that are part of a municipality's responsibility and which quickly became important.

Pending the final municipal division, the areas in which the polder embankment and draining works would be carried out were grouped with the municipalities Lemsterland, Urk, Kampen, Ambt Vollenhove and Stad Vollenhove. This municipal division lapsed with the establishment of the public body of 'the Noordoostelijke Polder' on 7 August 1942.

The area of the Vollenhove municipality that was transferred to the public body of 'the Noordoostelijke Polder' on 7 August 1942. There were also transfers from Genemuiden (with Oud-Kraggenburg) and Kampen (with Schokland). 

The public body was first seated in Zwolle, the same location as the Board. It was not until 1949 when a former town hall in Emmeloord was used. Given the war conditions, the provincial task of supervising a municipality was for the time being carried out by the secretary-general of the ministries of Internal Affairs and Transport, Public Works and Water Management. Any decisions were only taken, insofar the interests of other departments were involved, after consultation with the secretary-general of the eligible department.


Leadership was entrusted to one person who received the title of landdrost (see also pane 27). In the new polder, many people were suspicious about this unknown title. It required a newspaper article to make clear that this was a very old, longstanding Dutch position. Ir. S. Smeding was appointed landdrost. He was also the head of the Board. That is how governance and colonisation came together.

Dr.ir. S. Smeding in his work office at the location of the Wieringermeer Board in Zwolle, 4 February 1948.

The landdrost had the powers that in a standard municipality would belong to the council, councillors and the mayor. In 1946, Smeding invited a number of polder residents to partake in a Polder committee for public interests, as a predecessor to a full-fledged council.  

This resulted in the founding of the first Polder committee for public interests as of 1 February 1946. The selection procedure accounted for 'spiritual and social movements' in which these men were active and the province from which they hailed, so as to make the Polder committee a faithful reflection of the population structure.  The term of the members was limited to two years. That would allow the composition to frequently be updated to the growing population. The Polder committee was tasked to advise the landdrost in carrying out municipal tasks. The decision-making powers rested with the landdrost.

 Temporary town hall Noordoostpolder municipality 1953.

Elected Polder committee

As the population grew, it was time for an elected Polder committee.  On 16 June 1951, the new Polder committee was for the first time being elected by the Noordoostpolder population. The first elected Polder committee had thirteen members. The landdrost and the secretary of the public body acted as president and secretary. The meetings became public.

 The newly elected polder committee convening for its first meeting, 1951

The task of the polder committee was to advise the landdrost in governing the public body and cooperating with the enforcement of laws or general administrative orders. Using the advisory powers granted to it, the Polder committee influenced the municipal administration. When a decision of the landdrost would deviate from the advice of the Polder committee, he would have to include said advice of the Polder committee in his sharing of the decision with the minister of Internal affairs, who held the authority to approve. The penultimate step to the municipal independence of the polder residents was the appointment of a day-to-day advisory committee on 17 September 1952. This committee comprised three persons who were tasked to advise the landdrost for all cases of a municipality in which the mayor and councillors had the statutory obligation to make a decision.

Retirement of dr.ir. S. Smeding as director/landdrost. Leaving the temporary Town Hall, 1954.

Establishment of the municipality 

As early as in 1954 and in 1958, draft laws were submitted that were to result in the establishment of municipal organisations in the new polder. Initially, these acts comprised the establishment of the municipalities Emmeloord, Creil, Marknesse and Nagele, who would together cover the entire Noordoostpolder region. However, the majority of the permanent Parliamentary Committee of Internal Affairs wanted a single municipality given the expected larger scale municipal operations.

F.M. van Panthaleon baron of Eck. The first mayor.

F.M. van Panthaleon baron Eck and his wife were festively installed on 5 July 1962.

The Act of 19 January 1962 decided that a Noordoostpolder municipality was to be established on 1 July 1962 and that it would temporarily be assigned to the Overijssel province. For the first time, on Wednesday 2 May 1962, the Noordoostpolder inhabitants went to the polls for the municipal elections. The first council was installed on 2 July 1962. The polder citizens remained loyal to their parties. The first municipal council had 21 seats: nine representing the protestant Christian parties, five for the KVP, five for the PvdA and two for the VVD.